11/10/08 - lincoln ejects a visitor

In today's excerpt - the portrait artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830-1900), who used the White House as a studio while painting Abraham Lincoln.  He studied and painted Lincoln for nearly six months. On at least one notable occasion he saw the forceful side of Lincoln's personality. He wrote:

"It has been the business of my life to study the human face, and I have said repeatedly to friends that Mr. Lincoln had the saddest face I ever attempted to paint. During some of the dark days of the spring and summer of 1864, I saw him at times when his care-worn, troubled appearance was enough to bring the tears of sympathy into the eyes of his most bitter opponents. I recall particularly one day, when, having occasion to pass through the main hall of the domestic apartments, I met him alone, pacing up and down a narrow passage, his hands behind him, his head bent forward upon his breast, heavy black rings under his eyes, showing sleepless nights—altogether such a picture of the effects of sorrow and care as I have never seen! ...

"A great deal has been said of the uniform meekness and kindness of heart of Mr. Lincoln, but there would sometimes be afforded evidence that one grain of sand too much would break even this camel's back. Among the callers at the White House one day, was an officer who had been cashiered from the service. He had prepared an elaborate defense of himself, which he consumed much time in reading to the President. When he had finished, Mr. Lincoln replied that even upon his own statement of the case, the facts would not warrant executive interference. Disappointed, and considerably crestfallen, the man withdrew. ...

"[However, the man returned on two additional occasions and presented the same case in its entirety, and was twice again dismissed.] Turning very abruptly, he said: 'Well, Mr. President, I see you are fully determined not to do me justice!' This was too aggravating, even for Mr. Lincoln. Manifesting, however, no more feeling than that indicated by a slight compression of the lips, he very quietly arose, laid down a package of papers he held in his hand, and then suddenly seized the defunct officer by the coat-collar, he marched him forcibly to the door, saying, as he ejected him into the passage: 'Sir, I gave you fair warning never to show yourself in this room again. I can bear censure, but not insult!' In a whining tone the man begged for his papers, which he had dropped. 'Begone, sir,' said the President 'your papers will be sent to you. I never wish to see your face again.' "


Harold Holzer


Lincoln as I Knew Him: Gossip, Tributes & Revelations from his Best Friends & Worst Enemies


Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill


Copyright 1999 by Harold Holzer


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